Cape Town - 'Tougher and Prettier'... Hyundai's ix35, the SUV that helped the Korean brand climb the local sales ladder, has been replaced with an all-new version sporting the Tucson badge.
Hyundai hopes a thorough redesign of its popular SUV, a new engine borrowed from the Veloster, improved handling and a softer ride will help its next-gen SUV take on local rivals such as the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Kuga.
The 2016 Tucson, sharing a platform with the Kia Sportage, is 65mm longer and 30mm wider than the outgoing ix35, and has a 30mm longer wheelbase.
Why the name change?
For 2016, the ix35 loses it's 'i'-car nomenclature in favour of the Tucson badge. In 2009 Hyundai SA chose to follow the brand's international i-car designation (i.e. i10, i20, i30), with the launch of the new ix35 (which replaced the original Tucson).
Following success locally and internationally, for its third-generation SUV in 2016, Hyundai's higher-ups deemed it necessary to revert to the Tucson, much to the chagrin of local dealers who spent years cultivating a following for the ix35.
Fortunately, the new SUV sells itself but more on that later...
The third-generation Tucson is available in five derivatives with two petrol options (1.6 GDI petrol and 2.0 petrol), two transmission types (6 speed manual or auto) and three spec levels (Premium, Executive, Elite). Where are the diesel versions? Hyundai says it's currently testing a new diesel engine for SA, which will be launched later in 2016.
The entry-level Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Nu Premium is priced from R359 900 and the range-topping 1.6 TGDi Elite derivative is just shy of R500 000.
The new Tucson is yet another sleek, stylish SUV penned by Hyundai chief designer Peter Schreyer responsible for the brand's design renaissance. From its bold, assertive front, flowing lines along its flanks and sporty rear, it's possibly the best-looking version of the Tuscon yet.
The front is dominated by a new hexagonal grille with chromed slats, new LEDs, and a wing-shaped horizontal bumper incorporating the LED daytime running lights. The rear, is reinforced by strong horizontal lines flowing from the wheel arches.
The combination taillights and reflectors are stretched to, with the rear skid plate and twin exhaust adding a sporty touch. Its new design makes its more in-line with the rest of Hyundai's lineup.
The four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine (130kW/265Nm), from the Veloster turbo, is introduced for the first time in a Hyundai SUV locally. The Korean firm's seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available with this engine and sits at the head of the local range. A six-speed manual is standard.
Fuel consumption is rated at a claimed 8.3 litres/100km for the manual 1.6 and 8.5 litres/100km for the AWD version, with emissions of 169g/km and 178g/km respectively.
A 2.0-litre normally aspirated engine is capable of 115kW/196Nm (only offered in 'Premium' spec) and can be mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed auto.
Fuel consumption for the 2.0 petrol is rated at a claimed 8.9 litres/100km (manual) and 9 litres/100km for the auto, with emissions of 186g/km and 204g/km respectively.
Seven-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission (7DCT)
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (7DCT), developed in-house by Hyundai is available for the first time in the Hyundai SUV line-up. According to Hyundai: "The 7DCT system offers drivers fully automatic operation (ideal for town driving) or sequential manual gear changes, selected with the gear-lever for greater driver involvement."
Two driving modes, Eco and Sport, are available with the 7DCT, selected by a buttons on the centre console. In Eco mode, gear shifts occur sooner for betetr fuel economy, while the gears are shifted at higher revolutions in Sport mode.
Four-wheel drive system
In the range-topping Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDi Elite, the 1.6-litre T-GDI petrol engine is mated to a four-wheel drive (4WD) system, maintains traction on rough or slippery surfaces.
The front wheels receive 100% of torque during normal road driving with up to 50% sent to the rear wheels, depending on conditions. A manually-selected ‘Lock Mode’ splits torque 50/50 for enhanced stability at speeds up to 40 km/h.
The 1.6 TGDI petrol engine is also available with the front-wheel drive system in the Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDi Executive (manual), while the 2.0-litre naturally petrol engine in the Premium derivatives is available with front-wheel drive only.
Cornering performance is enhanced with Advanced Traction Cornering Control (ATCC), combining the 4WD variable torque distribution and ESC. In the event of understeer, higher torque is applied to the rear axle, while braking the inner wheel, improving cornering performance.
The new Drive Mode Select (DMS) function on automatic transmission models offers customers a choice of two drive modes – Normal and Sport – with different characteristics for the steering and transmission (for AT or 7DCT versions).
One of the biggest issues with the outgoing version is its harsh suspension. Has Hyundai managed to soften the ride? The automaker took customers' demands to heart when developing its next-gen Tucson. The suspension delivers a supremely comfortable ride and its damping spot-on.
Hyundai has made great gains in terms of overall comfort. Whether it's city driving or heading off on gravel roads, the 1.6 has adequate power for most duties. Complimenting the engine is a new 7-speed twin-clutch automatic providing smooth shifts.
The 1.6 is a peppy, relatively fuel-efficient turbocharged engine.
It's ride and handling is less sporty than its looks, however the Tucson is composed on most surfaces. Steering is predictable and competent, the ride is refined, and the cabin is eerily quiet at highway speeds.
Overall, it's a good improvement over its predecessor.
The centre console has been redesigned and features a sound system with Bluetooth, USB and Aux connectivity with steering wheel controls. The Elite models are fitted with a large display screen for the new-generation navigation system.
A new seamless DAB+ digital radio with six audio speakers is standard.
A navigation system, available as a R15 000 option in all the derivatives, can suggest the routes not only on the trip distance, but also on the time needed to get to the final destination.
The relative silence is one of the Tuscon's most pleasant features; even at high-speeds, minimal wind-noise penetrates the cabin courtesy of its isolation and larger tyres.
The 2016 Tucson earned a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating, achieved by six airbags, new bodyshell (51% advanced high- strength steel) and loads of safety systems; blind spot detector with lane change vehicle stability management (combines electronic stability control and motor driven power steering rear-cross traffic alert (warns of approaching traffic when reversing).
The Tucson has reinvented itself with an eye-catching exterior design. The 2016 version is possibly the best-looking SUV in its class, well, maybe on par with its brand partner's stunning SUV - the new Kia Sportage.
If you want a compact SUV with great styling, sophisticated technology and comfortable ride, the 2016 Hyundai Tucson should be on your list. Backed by Hyundai's industry leading 7-year or 200 000km powertrain warranty, the Tucson makes for a great value proposition in the fiercely competitive SUV market.
Its biggest selling points are a well-insulated cabin, a new suspension setup that feels composed on gravel as it's on tar and steering that's less artificial than its predecessor.
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Nu Premium (manual) - R359 900
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Nu Premium (automatic) - R379 900
Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Nu Elite (automatic) - R439 900
Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDi Executive (manual) - R419 900
Hyundai Tucson 1.6 TGDi Elite DCT AWD - R499 900
Hyundai’s five-year/150 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, enhanced by the additional 7-years or 200 000 km drivetrain warranty, is standard, as well as a 5-year or 150 000km.
All derivatives come are sold with a five-year or 90 000 km service plan with intervals at 15 000km.